America has had to consider how we will cast our votes while considering social distancing in the wake of COVID-19. The answer? It depends on where you live, and while NJIT has a very diverse student body, most students come to reside in Newark from within the state, so this article will focus on New Jersey’s voting procedures. Despite hundreds of resources online, maybe this is your first time voting, you’re voting away from home or you’re questioning if voting really matters, so a guide to voting in New Jersey will be particularly useful for this election season.
Am I eligible to register to vote? How do I register?
Yes, if you are a U.S. citizen and will be at least 18 years old on Nov. 3, you can register to vote. If you have not yet, act quickly, because the voter registration deadline in New Jersey is October 13. To register, you can visit to vote.org; it will only take a few minutes. You will need your driver’s license or your Social Security Number when you register.
How can I vote?
New Jersey will primarily vote by mail. We were able to test-run this process over summer with the primary election, which saw the second-highest voter turnout in state history for a primary. All active, registered New Jersey voters will automatically receive a prepaid, return postage, vote-by-mail ballot from their county clerks to their registered address. So if you are registered to vote and you reside at your primary address, they will automatically be mailed by Monday, October 5. Other options for voting include:
- Voting in person: If you have voted before, you may be familiar with this method. You will be assigned to a specific location based on your registered address due to the fact that there will also likely be local elections on your ballot. To find yours, search for a Polling Place Locator online and select a nearby polling location to attend come Election Day.
- Handing in your ballot directly to a poll worker at a polling place on Election Day: If you received and filled out your absentee ballot, you have the option to go to a polling place and drop it off here. However, it is probably easier to mail it by dropping it in the US Postal Service Blue Collection Box. The nearest one to NJIT’s campus is right by the outgoing NJIT/Warren Street Light Rail Station on Lock Street.
- Dropping off a ballot at your designated county drop box: This allows you to submit your ballot early without mailing it.
Should I vote?
Voting is more than just electing a candidate; it is choosing the policies and people who have your best interests in mind when making decisions that will affect our community, state and nation. That is how a democracy works, but it is only effective if we all participate. Along the same lines, it should be noted that young voters (18-29 years old) historically participate the least in elections, partially because college students need to put in a bit of extra effort to vote, what with the obstacles of registering to vote for the first time or physically going to a polling place with reduced means of transportation. Luckily, registering and physically voting by absentee ballot should be easier than ever this year, so you absolutely should vote!
How do I vote if I am temporarily living on/near campus?
If you plan to vote but will not be at home in mid-late October to fill out a ballot, you should request an absentee ballot. This is how you request a ballot be sent to you here in Newark, even though your permanent address may be in a different county in New Jersey. For out-of-state students living on campus, the process is similar, but the timeline may be slightly different depending on where you live. Finding your county’s form is just a Google search away and the request must be received by your county clerk at least seven days before the election. If you need to buy a stamp, the Campus Pharmacy near Giovanni’s sells them. Pro tip: do it right now, so you don’t cut it close.